Inevitably the events in Paris cast a shadow over David Beckham's UNICEF #Football match on Saturday in Manchester. A delicate balance was achieved, paying tribute to those who had suffered so tragically whilst continuing with an event for a worthwhile cause in defiance of a risk of terrorism.
After Andrea Bocelli's rousing rendition of Nessun Dorma, the 75,000 plus crowd fell silent for a minute, remembering the people of Paris. It was a poignant moment, as the rain beat down on the roof of the stadium. .
Surprisingly, apart from a quick cursory glance in bags and backpacks, security was less rigorous than I expected. Large umbrellas, clearly outlawed on the ground's website were allowed in. But there was no incident and maybe I am becoming paranoid.
Call me old fashioned. I had gone with cash in my pocket (not always a given these days) in the expectation of being assailed with collecting buckets. Donations by text made much more sense and I was surprised at the low amount requested (£3).
To be there and soak up the atmosphere of a packed stadium was experience enough, but add in a list of famous football stars (all be it mainly retired) a famous singer and a current pop star and it was an event not to be missed. I wasn't sure if Andrea Bocelli at the start or Rita Ora at half time were miming, but no matter, they were guaranteed to get the crowd buzzing and appeal to a wide age range. My daughters were thrilled and surprised to see an X-factor judge performing, whilst my husband preferred Bocelli.
Managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Great Britain and Ireland resembled the Manchester United Class of 92 with a few friends. Carlo Ancelotti's Rest of the World side boasted a collection of foreign stars from years gone by.
Fears of a tame kick around were soon allayed as the pace picked up. After all, it would have been unrealistic to expect retired players to perform at the same pace as in their youth. The pace might have slowed, but Beckham still retains some of his touch, working tirelessly and delivering many a well timed pass. Although Butt went off injured, it was a delight to watch Phil Neville, Giggs, Scholes and Beckham working together as in the past, with Scholes opening the scoring from a Beckham cross.
Despite Figu, Ronaldinho, Pires, Cafu, Couto and co.,the Rest of the World team struggled to gel against a team of old United and ex England team mates playing with current premiership players (Crouch, Terry and Fletcher).. .
Unsurprisingly the crowd were partisan, greeting ex-United players warmly, but booing Carragher and McAllister (Liverpool). The goals were from United. Michael Owen added 2 in the second half, having replaced Crouch and Dwight Yorke got one back for The rest of the World. James and Seaman were solid in The Great Britain and Ireland goal, while the former United keepers Van der Saar and Van der Gouw were not so lucky, the latter bungling an attempt to get the ball, which went between his legs for Owen to tap into an open net for his second goal.
Disappointment at Beckham's substitution was short lived, as 16 year old Brooklyn Beckham took to the field, showing potential. With #David Beckham's return after a five minute breather to replace the injured Campbell, the only problem was deciding who took the corners. The crowd roared for Brooklyn and he duly delivered (no pressure son).
It might have been a Beckham family show with Romeo, Cruz and Harper Seven accompanying their father onto the pitch at the start. But credit where credit is due. David Beckham has come a long way since he was dubbed the bad boy of football after a sending off in the World Cup, shortly before fatherhood beckoned. He has thrown himself wholeheartedly into his role as a UNICEF ambassador. Playing seven games in nine days on different continents is an achievement in itself and it reached a fitting finale at Old Trafford, The Theatre of Dreams. And lets not forget all the others who played their part.
Same again next year, David?